Climate Change, El Niño Wilt Zimbabwe’s Food Supply

Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS

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Drought now permeates every aspect of people’s lives in Zimbabwe. It threatens water and food, education, health and the entire economy. Some 2.4 million people are going hungry and another maize harvest will not come in for another year. According to the United Nations, 14 million people could face a lack of food across southern Africa.

A child walks across the dried-out basin of what used to be a watering hole. Zimbabwe has been hit hard by the effects of El Niño and climate change, which has resulted in an extended drought. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Cracked earth is all that remains of a former watering hole.  People, their livestock and indigenous animals all once relied on water from areas now completely dried. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
A woman and her young child  dig deep below the ground’s surface to reveal the last dregs of water. Once an abundant watering hole, the next closest source of water is hours away by foot. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Drought has stunted the livelihoods of people like Fortunate Maangla, second from left, who relies on farming for her income. Fortunate’s youngest son had to drop out of school when she could no longer afford the school fees. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
David Mwaitomupi, acting principal at Chidoma Secondary School, says even students who continue to attend may fall unconscious at school from hunger. Students may walk for several hours to school and back with empty stomachs. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Girls can pay the heaviest price when there is drought. Often, they are pulled out of school to make money at home. Sometimes they are married off to whomever pays the highest dowry, income needed to help their families survive. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Fruit from the drought-resistant baobab tree provides a few rare options for nutrition in Zimbabwe. Overall, people have limited sources of sustenance since the drought. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
The baobab fruit contains small, cube-like seeds covered with a white, filmy powder that tastes sweet and sour. People boil the fruit to make a thin porridge. They also eat the leaves and roots of other local trees. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
These bales of cotton were left abandoned in 2011, when the cotton industry collapsed in Zimbabwe. Many cotton farmers tried to grow maize instead, but the increasingly hot, dry climate is no longer suitable for it. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Bridges that once stood above rushing rivers now arch over nothing but sand. Many seasonal rivers in Zimbabwe dry up at certain times every year, but since the drought even perennial rivers have evaporated. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS
Digging for muddy water has become a means of survival since climate change and El Niño have reduced Zimbabwe’s rainfall to occasional, erratic rain bursts. Photo by Nancy McNally/CRS




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